My understanding is the Moses went up the Mountain to get the 10 Commandments exactly 3 months after leaving Egypt, and a week or so later went up again for 40 (on g-ds command) days without out telling anyone how long he would be gone. 2 questions

  1. Are my assertions above correct? Is this not a recipe for disaster?
  2. How could g-d (or Moses for that matter) not know that this was a bad Idea? Is there any commentary on this? (I can’t find any)
  • 1
    Why do you think this is a bad plan?
    – Double AA
    Commented Sep 16, 2018 at 16:00
  • He did say how long he was going for. There was a miscalculation
    – user15253
    Commented Sep 16, 2018 at 16:07

1 Answer 1


Your question seems to be based on the premise that Moses didn’t tell anyone when he was coming back. That’s a false premise.

The Medieval commentator Rashi, on Exodus 32:1 (the beginning of the Golden Calf story), quotes the Talmud, Shabbas 89a. He says that Moses indeed told them when he was coming back: “At the end of 40 days, I will return during the first six hours.” The problem was a miscommunication - Moses meant forty complete days, and they thought he meant that day on which he ascended should be included.

On the 16th of Tammuz, the day on which the Jews thought he should return, they were concerned - maybe Moses had died up there? Why is he taking so long? Satan took advantage of their confusion and made the world look dark and bleak. The correct response should have been to have faith, wait it out; instead, the people took this as a sign that Moses was dead and resorted to hysteria.

To directly answer your questions, then:

  1. No, your assertions are not correct; and
  2. Everyone had the proper intentions, just that the Jews should have responded differently to the test placed before them, and they failed.

I should highly emphasize here who, exactly, sinned with the Calf. According to the same commentator Rashi as above, it was not all of the Jews who sinned. On Exodus 34:1, regarding G-d telling Moses to carve out a new set of Tablets, Rashi gives a parable to explain why Moses had to do this. A king went overseas, and he left his wife among his maidservants. The maidservants sinned. To prevent rumors that the wife was the one who sinned, a loyal friend of the king’s tore up their marriage document, so that if anyone accuses her of having sinned, the friend can say that they were never married - where’s the marriage document? When the king returned, he saw that it was the maidservants who sinned, and he became appeased. His friend said the king should write a new marriage document; the king told him to prepare the paper, since he was the one who tore it, and the king would write a new document.

Rashi explains the parable succinctly: the king is G-d, the wife is the Jewish people, the friend is Moses, and the maidservants are the Mixed Multitude. The Jews did not sin at the Golden Calf. It was only the Mixed Multitude that sinned. Most of the Jews passed the test - they just failed to stop the Mixed Multitude from sinning.

  • I'm not questioning anyones intentions.. Clearly Moses was following gods command. I'm questioning how this was seen as a good idea. Did the need for moses to go up to the mountain overshadow the need for the people to have a leader?
    – Morons
    Commented Sep 16, 2018 at 16:54
  • @Morons Why do you think there was a problem with it? Because they sinned with the Golden Calf? First of all, only a tiny percentage of the people actually sinned with the Golden Calf. Second of all, the problem was that they misunderstood Moses’ message, and Satan took advantage of that, which is what led to the sin. The people should have had faith in G-d that He knew what was best. Am I misunderstanding what you’re asking?
    – DonielF
    Commented Sep 16, 2018 at 16:56
  • They where only out of Egypt 3 month.. to leave them that soon for so long just seems irresponsible. To play devils advocate:Would it have not been better to take night classes for 80 days? If the president took a 40 day vacation he would be impeached... (they go nuts anytime he takes a week off for golf)
    – Morons
    Commented Sep 16, 2018 at 17:00
  • @Morons Again, most of them were fine. They had some semblance of leadership, i.e. Aaron and Hur. What are you suggesting as an alternative? That G-d give them the Torah at the bottom of the mountain instead? They already said they wanted Moses to be the go-between. I think the mistake you’re making is in comparing Moses to the president instead of comparing G-d. Moses wasn’t just taking a vacation - he was going up to Heaven to get the Torah for the Jews - exactly as they had requested.
    – DonielF
    Commented Sep 16, 2018 at 17:07

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